|One hundred and fifty years ago some hardy
English settlers scrambled up the steep slopes of the Bridle Path to the
summit of the Port Hills and looked down on their new home, a vast stretch
of unattractive muddy swampland. It must have been a horrifying sight
after such an arduous journey. Those early settlers would be amazed if
they were to stand at the same vantage point today. The swamps have been
drained and the water runs to the sea through two orderly rivers, the Avon
and the Heathcote, while houses have filled vast flat areas and are
steadily climbing the hills.
Nowadays few people arrive on sailing ships; most fly into Christchurch
International Airport. On a fine day they enjoy a panoramic view of a city
lying on the edge of the Canterbury Plains, bounded to the east by the
Pacific coastline, to the south by the hills of Banks Peninsula, and to
the west by the mountains of the Southern Alps. As the plane circles
lower, newcomers can see the expansive Hagley Park and the reasons why
Christchurch is lauded as the Garden City. Everywhere there are trees,
parks and gardens, but very few high-rises.
Central Business District
The city's Anglican heritage is evident in Cathedral Square, the heart of
the city. Some fine hotels overlook it, while one block west, 'The Strip'
follows the Avon River along Oxford Terrace, offering visitors cafes by
day and clubbing by night. Cuisine styles range from Egyptian to Asian to
Taking a tram is a pleasant way to see the western CBD: the Gothic
stone buildings of The Arts Centre with its cafes, cinemas and Court
Theatre; the Canterbury Museum and Christ's College; while the McDougall
Art Gallery hides in the expansive Botanic Gardens next to Hagley Park's
golf course and sports fields. If the flatness of the city and its one-way
streets are disorienting, get maps and advice from the Visitors'
Information Centre before heading off.
Experience the spectrum of entertainment at the Town Hall, the
Convention Centre, and the Christchurch Casino, with nearby specialist
shops and restaurants. Expensive shops tout for tourist trade close to the
Central library, while the tram journey ends under the Spanish facade of
New Regent Street.
Further south, you'll discover an eclectic mix of restaurants, dealer
art galleries, bookshops, red light establishments and a variety of
churches, from the traditional to the more lively Pentecostals. South City
Centre offers upmarket clothing and department stores, footwear, wine,
antiques and other specialty stores. Cinemas and Science Alive offer
West of Cathedral Square
West of Hagley Park, Riccarton is best known for its large indoor shopping
facility, Riccarton Mall, and the Riccarton Racecourse, which hosts a
thriving Sunday market. Two early settlers' homes and some original native
forest can be seen here at Deans' Bush. The upmarket Fendalton has
Christchurch Boys' High School, built on land purchased from the Deans
family, and Christchurch Girls' High School, erected on a former mill site
alongside the Avon River. Just upstream is Mona Vale, with its popular
rose garden. Further west is the University of Canterbury's Ilam campus
with its world-renowned rhododendron gardens that flower in
Hornby has Airforce World, cinemas and the site of November's annual
Agricultural and Pastoral Show where country comes to town for three days.
North of Cathedral Square
Merivale is a fashionable suburb with cafes, designer clothing and a a
growing reputation for antiques. To the northwest Jellie Park Aqualand
offers waterslide and picnic facilities. Golfers have Russley Golf Course,
and Garden City Golf driving range next to Pirate's Island Adventure Golf.
To the northeast, Christchurch Golf Club Inc claims to be among the best
in New Zealand and borders on Horseshoe Lake Reserve. Here QE11 Park
offers aquatic fun and Leisureland tempts kids with a variety of rides.
South of Cathedral Square
At Addington, the WestpacTrust Centre offers a new multisport facility and
Addington Raceway hosts the prestigious New Zealand Trotting Cup. Head up
through Cashmere on to the Port Hills where you can walk and mountain bike
along various tracks, or hang-glide and revive at the Sign of Takahe. The
Mount Cavendish Gondola gives 360 degree views of the Southern Alps,
Canterbury Plains, down to the thriving port of Lyttelton and across to
East of Cathedral Square
The suburb of Linwood is a very old part of town, but sports fans will
appreciate the rugby fields and cricket grounds of Jade Stadium (formerly
Lancaster Park) near Eastgate shopping mall.
The pick of the city's beach suburbs, Sumner is a favourite summer
swimming spot with the landmark Cave Rock and popular restaurants like
Scarborough Fare. On Clifton Hill, the Gethsemane Gardens look out to the
Kaikoura mountains. Further east, Taylor's Mistake offers surfers a superb
point break. Various walks begin in the area, notably to the old WW2 gun
emplacements on Godley Head, while Ferrymead Historic Park provides
graphic insights of life in a bygone era.
Outside the City
Canterbury is renowned for its wines. A drive around Banks Peninsula to
the early French settlement of Akaroa brings you to French Farm Winery,
plus a variety of cafes, accommodation, walks and harbour attractions.
West of Christchurch are vineyards like Giesen Wine Estate, Morworth
Estate and Sandihurst Wines. Forty minutes' north is the Waipara district
and a cluster of wineries with dining facilities including Pegasus Bay
Winery and Restaurant, Waipara Springs Wines, Canterbury House Winery, and
Glenmark Wines. Award winning wines proliferate in the area, so be sure to
make time to enjoy them.
And in keeping with true Canterbury pioneering spirit, head towards the
Southern Alps and check out the numerous skifields and all the action
adventure tours of our Southern skies, rivers and harbours.